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Variety is the Spice of Life: Finding Quirky and Unique UK Properties

Hello, my fellow investors! If there's one thing we love about the UK housing market, it's the sheer variety of homes on offer. From picturesque, thatched cottages in the Cotswolds to sleek city apartments in London, there's a property for every taste and purpose. In my last post I mentioned ‘castles’ and it got me thinking, and yes, I could hear the cogs turning. I was thinking, if you're keen to stand out in the buy-to-let or serviced accommodation sector, you might want to consider something a bit more... unusual.


Floating Lake House

 

In this week's blog, I’m diving into the world of quirky and unique UK properties that could provide a lucrative return on your investment.

 


Converted Churches

 

I’m thinking Vicar of Dibley here - a staple of the British countryside and urban settings alike, decommissioned churches offer an abundance of character, history, and architectural features. Imagine soaring ceilings perfect for a cosy mezzanine, beautiful stained-glass windows to reflect myriad colours into the room on a sunny day, and Gothic arches as quirky features to display artwork. Am I selling it to you yet? Well, not only do these properties make for a striking home, but they're also in high demand amongst tourists and short-stay visitors looking for a unique accommodation experience. www.loopnet.com has a good selection.

 


Houseboats and Floating Homes

 

I loved Tales of the Riverbank when I was young, watching Hammy hamster and Roderick rat on their boat drifting down the river. So, it will be no surprise that I still love a river vacation when I can get it, and it’s good news, because the UK's canals and rivers are home to numerous floating properties. From traditional narrowboats in cities like Birmingham and Manchester to more luxurious floating homes in London's Canary Wharf, there's a boat for every budget. The best part? Houseboat rentals are trending, especially among millennials seeking sustainable and minimalist living options. Check out www.rightboat.com to see some of the latest available and whether you want to take a punt!

 


Renovated Barns

 

Now come on, who doesn’t love a barn conversion? The great British countryside has a farming history as long as your leg, probably longer to be fair. Barn conversions started to be a ‘thing’ around the 1990s when a glut of agricultural buildings was bought by those with the vision to see how the large floor plans and period features could be transformed into contemporary living spaces. Many holidaymakers and business travellers appreciate the charm and tranquillity of barn conversions, which are often in a countryside setting, making them ideal, not only for the serviced accommodation sector, but also the longer-term rental market.

 

Thankfully, the countryside is dotted with barns and crofts that have been lovingly transformed into ready-to-go spacious, modern homes and the epitome of ‘rustic chic,’ combining original wooden beams and stone walls with contemporary fixtures. And it may pay you to go for one that has already been converted into liveable accommodation, www.onthemarket.com can help find you something. However, if you are looking for a barn to convert into your own style, then there are many still available, www.barnsetc.co.uk, has a surprisingly large choice all over the UK with prices to suit all budgets.

 


Lighthouses and Coastal Towers

 

‘Oh, I do like to be beside the seaside…’

Portland Bill had many adventures in his lighthouse, and who wouldn’t want to stay in a lighthouse, I mean it’s not going to get washed away is it? Am I losing some of you with these references to my younger years…do keep up. Decommissioned lighthouses and coastal towers offer unbeatable panoramic sea views, warm and safe accommodation, with up to 90% occupancy in many areas. A niche market that is becoming an increasingly popular option. Locations like Cornwall, Devon, Wales and Scotland's rugged coastlines are prime spots. The dedicated lighthouse site, www.lighthousesforsale.co.uk, is a good place to start your search. Remember, that while a lighthouse or tower may seem a wonderful venture, they might require significant investment in maintenance. Although, the potential returns – particularly in the summer months – can be impressive.

 


Glamping Pods and Eco homes

 

Not quite as exciting as my other offerings but with the rise in eco-consciousness, sustainable properties are more in demand than ever. We're seeing an increase in bespoke-designed eco pods and cabins, particularly in areas of natural beauty such as the Lake District and Snowdonia, that are extremely popular with tourists. I’ve stayed in many types of accommodation, and I can speak from experience here, these pods/cabins are very comfy alternatives to a B&B or local hotel for a few nights stay. With typical features of solar panels, rainwater harvesting systems, and natural insulation, they appeal to the environmentally minded renter too.

 

The other huge plus is the purchase price. Ranging from £5,000 to £15,000 for an average size ‘glamping’ pod, it means you don’t have to invest a big chunk of your money to get started. Okay, some of you will have spotted the downside, I’m sure. Yes, you do need a plot of land to put them on. Also, proper utility supplies in the area. Well, I didn’t say it would be child’s play. There are places already set up that you can buy a pod or several and pay a management fee for them to deal with the whole process. The www.thepod.info is a great site for into if you fancy it.

 


Historic Railway Carriages

 

I may have saved the best for last, especially if you are looking for something quirky, vintage and reminiscent of past times for your renters. I’m talking about the growing market of railway carriage conversions. This is truly a niche market but offers immense charm, the nostalgia of these properties can be a significant draw for short-term or holiday lettings. There are several websites offering carriage stays in the UK but not as many places to buy a train carriage for restoration, if that is what you fancy doing. Be aware, it is not an easy or cheap process but can be a labour of love. Believe it or not, www.Ebay.co.uk is perhaps the best place to find your first renovated carriage for sale. Just double check you are not buying a toy train…haha. Alternatively, this company can do the work for you, www.jmrailwaycarriagerestoration.co.uk, is based in Wisbech, Cambridge and offers a full restoration service. So, don’t be a Caboose, there are many abandoned railway carriages that have already been transformed into cosy, retro-style homes, often placed in scenic locations near active railway lines, so get out there and do a bit of train spotting.

 


Some Tips to Remember:

 

Research – Before diving in and investing in a quirky property, ensure you understand the local property market, regulations, and the specific needs of your target renters. These may differ to those of a normal letting.

 

Maintenance – Unique properties will come with unique challenges. From waterproofing a houseboat to maintaining a church’s stained-glass windows, you will need to budget for potential extra costs.

 

Renovation - Many of these properties may have graded listing, meaning you will have to adhere to certain rules and regs when it comes to renovation, for example, what type of materials you can use, colours of paint, specific wood for windows etc. Unless you plan on making your own wattle and daub for the walls, a stinky business I’m told, you may want to think again about this type of investment.

 

Marketing – So, you’ve taken the plunge and bought a unique property with all its quirks and foibles. Well done you! Now, play up those quirks! Emphasise the property's unique features in your marketing material and consider platforms that cater to niche rentals, www.towanderuk.co.uk is a great site to get some info and might provide ideas of other types of unique properties for investment too.

 

There you have it; the UK housing market offers an incredible array of quirky and unique properties for the adventurous investor; I have only scratched the surface here. Whether you're keen on a floating home or a historic conversion, there's potential for excellent ROIs in the buy-to-let and serviced accommodation sectors.

 

Until next time, keep your investment compass steady and your dreams of property prosperity alive!

 


-The Anonymous Investor.

 

*The information provided in this article is for general information only and should not be considered as financial advice or a recommendation to invest in any specific property ventures or investment opportunities. The article's content is based on the author's opinions and research only, and the financial landscape may have changed since its writing. Always consult with qualified professionals for personalised financial advice tailored to your specific needs and circumstances.

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